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New COVID-19 cases overwhelm Lewis and Clark Co. contact tracers
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New COVID-19 cases overwhelm Lewis and Clark Co. contact tracers

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Saying the large number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has overwhelmed contact-tracing efforts, Lewis and Clark Public Health officials on Thursday urged residents who test positive or are a close contact to a known case not to wait until they get a call from the health department and to follow quarantine and isolation guidance immediately to prevent transmission of the disease to others.

The county reported adding 133 new cases on Wednesday, the highest rate since early December, officials said. On Thursday, 70 new cases were posted. The county has seen 104 deaths related to COVID-19. There are now 836 active cases in Lewis and Clark County and 8,732 people have recovered. 

While Lewis and Clark Public Health has hired many contact tracers in the last few months, county officials said in a news release the huge increase in cases has overwhelmed tracing efforts, resulting in delays in providing quarantine and isolation guidance to residents who have tested positive and those identified as a close contact to a case.

“It is extremely important for residents to take personal responsibility, and, if they know they are a close contact to a case, immediately follow guidelines set forth by LCPH,” Laurel Riek, disease control and prevention administrator for Lewis and Clark Public Health, said in the news release.

Isolation orders are still being sent out by LCPH and people must still follow the orders. These are enforceable, county officials said.

The county continues to send quarantine information, but quarantine orders are no longer issued because they are not enforceable due to legislative changes.

People with symptoms and awaiting test results should stay at home until they have been notified of their results. If they test positive, people should continue to isolate until released by a public health nurse. Isolate means to stay away from others, including people living in a person’s home.

For fully vaccinated people who are close contacts to a positive case, with no symptoms:

  • Test three to five days after exposure.
  • Wear a face covering in public indoor settings for at least 14 days.
  • Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following exposure.

If you live with an immunosuppressed person or children under the age of 12:

  • Wear a mask at home for 14 days after exposure or until you receive a negative COVID-19 test result.

For fully vaccinated people who have COVID-19 symptoms:

  • You are required to isolate if you have symptoms or a positive test.
  • Get clinically evaluated for COVID-19. Get a test for COVID-19, if indicated.
Vaccinators give Covid-19 vaccines

Health-care workers give COVID-19 vaccines to people at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds in February. 

Unvaccinated or those not fully vaccinated individuals must:

Quarantine for 10 days. This means staying home and not visiting public spaces unless getting tested or seeking health care. Maintain at least six feet of distance from others and wear a mask if you have contact with others in your home.

  • Get tested for COVID-19 immediately.
  •  Test again five to seven days after exposure, or if you get symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, isolate and contact your local care provider, local urgent care, or local emergency room for guidance.

Those who test positive using an at-home test kit must isolate and report their positive test to LCPH by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 833-829-9219 or visiting the "Testing/Contact Tracing" tab on the COVID-19 Hub at https://www.helenamontanamaps.org/LCPHCovid19HUB/.

Staff Writer Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021 or phil.drake@helenair.com.

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